5 Lessons and Truths We Can Learn from Miriam in the Bible
- Clarence L. Haynes Jr. Contributing Writer
- 2022 14 Feb
Women have always played an important role in the Bible. We often remember and celebrate the contributions of Hannah, Esther, Deborah, and the many others God has used in the Bible. Another person who warrants discussion is Miriam. You might be wondering who Miriam was, and what can I learn from her life? You will soon discover that God used Miriam from a young age to impact Moses’ life, and ultimately she became a leader among the Israelites.
Who Was Miriam in the Bible?
Miriam was Moses’ older sister and though she is not talked about a lot in Scripture, she played an important part in the life of Moses and the nation of Israel. There are four key places where Miriam is mentioned in the Bible during her lifetime:
1. Shortly after Moses’ birth
“Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him” (Exodus 2:1-4).
Miriam was the sister standing in the distance.
2. After crossing the Red Sea
The next time we see Miriam, she is leading a dance of celebration because the Israelites had left Egypt, crossed the Red Sea and their oppressors the Egyptians were killed in the Red Sea.
“Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them:
‘Sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea’” (Exodus 15:20-21).
3. Complaining about Moses and his wife
The next mention of Miriam we see her stirring the pot with her brother Aaron.
“Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite” (Numbers 12:1).
4. Mentioned in her death
Finally, the last time Miriam is mentioned during her lifetime is when she died.
“In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried” (Numbers 20:1).
Was Miriam a Prophetess?
Miriam was mentioned in the Bible as a prophet. She was one of a few women in Scripture who were given that title. This distinction was given to her in the passage in Exodus 15:20, which we looked at earlier. However, there are no records in the Bible of any specific prophecies that were made by Miriam. It is important to note that prophets don’t just speak about the future, they mostly declare the word of the Lord. In Numbers she clearly makes a statement indicative of her being a prophet.
“Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. ‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?’ they asked. ‘Hasn’t he also spoken through us?’ And the Lord heard this” (Numbers 12:1-2).
Photo credit: ©SparrowStock
Truths About Miriam's Story
1. Miriam Was a Quick Thinker
When we first see Miriam, she is watching to see what would happen to her brother. The rest of the story shows the type of intelligence she had and how much of a quick thinker she was. Her quick decision had a drastic impact on the first few years of Moses’ life.
“Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. ‘This is one of the Hebrew babies,’ she said. Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?’ ‘Yes, go,’ she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.’ So the woman took the baby and nursed him” (Exodus 2:5-9).
Miriam was smart enough to see the situation happening and make a quick and decisive decision. In doing this she reconnected Moses with his mother. This was a critical to Moses’ life because there is no doubt this helped to shape his formative years.
2. Miriam Was a Leader
“I brought you up out of Egypt
and redeemed you from the land of slavery.
I sent Moses to lead you,
also Aaron and Miriam” (Micah 6:4).
Miriam was a prophet and was a leader in Israel. It was her responsibility along with Aaron to assist Moses in leading the people. This is how she was recognized in life and after she died.
3. She Got in Trouble for Complaining
There was one instance in Miriam’s life that did not go well for her. That is when she decided to speak out against Moses and his wife. They were bringing into question Moses’ decision making, because he decided to marry an Ethiopian woman. Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses.
It seems that the complaining wasn’t just between Miriam and Aaron, but they were talking publicly against Moses. When they did, this aroused the Lord’s anger (Num 12:9.) Because of her complaining, God struck her with leprosy. Since God struck her with leprosy, and not Aaron, that might be an indication that she was the ringleader in this situation. The good news is the leprosy was only temporary because God healed her. However, she was forced to live outside the camp for seven days.
Lessons for Us from the Life of Miriam
1. Don’t complain publicly about your leaders
When Miriam got frustrated with Moses’ wife and the decision he made to marry her, she spoke out publicly. This is something we all must guard against. Every leader will make decisions and choices that you will not agree with. If it hasn’t happened yet, just wait a little longer. When this happens, be careful that you don’t speak out publicly against the leader and possibly even raise support against the leader.
My wife and I went to a church where there were a group of people who weren’t happy with the decisions the pastor made. Their unhappiness eventually led to a lawsuit where they tried to sue to get the pastor removed. This is not pleasing to God and they did not win the lawsuit. Leaders are not perfect and you must be mindful of how you deal publicly with their imperfection. A good place to start would be to remember that we are all imperfect as well.
2. Understand the role God has placed you in
One of Miriam’s complaints was that God doesn’t just speak through Moses, he speaks through me too. It appears she forgot the role God has called her to. There may be times when you will be the leader and there may be times when you are called to support. You must be sure of the position that God has placed you in for that season of your life.
Even though the leader may not always get it right, don’t automatically assume that you would do a better job – especially if that is not the position God has called you to at this time. Sometimes you might think you are smarter or more gifted than the leader, and that may very well be true, just don’t forget however that God has called that person to lead.
Miriam was smart, decisive, a leader, and a prophet. There is no doubt that her life impacted Moses’ life and therefore helped the Israelites. We don’t know all the things that she did, but we know she was given by God to the nation of Israel to help lead them from Egypt and through the wilderness as they journeyed to the promised land.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Jude Beck
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.
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These verses serve as a source of renewal for the mind and restoration for the heart by reinforcing the notion that, while human weakness is inevitable, God's strength is always available to uplift, guide, and empower us.
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